Quarterbacks have won 27 MVP awards over the first half-century of Super Bowl games, more than all other positions combined. Running backs are the closest, with only seven MVP nods. Some football fans will argue that star quarterbacks are enabled by powerful offensive lines and superb receivers, giving QBs the space to operate and a reliable target to hit.
Nonetheless, the symbolism of a calm, strong quarterback leading their team to a Super Bowl win endures. The football crew at Canada Sports Betting believe that the following five quarterbacks reign as the best over the first fifty years of the Super Bowl. These clutch performers define the history of what it means to win in the NFL.
5 Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning loses a spot for winning with a different team than he started, but he gains respect for winning his last Super Bowl with the spine of a 70-year-old and half a neck remaining. During his last couple of seasons, the NFL gasped any time he scrambled out of the pocket or absorbed a remotely tough hit. Even opposing players occasionally stopped to make sure he was OK.
This still didn’t stop him from winning his second title with the Denver Broncos, finishing his career in a blaze of glory similar to Elway, even if the Broncos won through an all-time defensive performance. Statistically, Peyton’s best game was Super Bowl XLIV with the Indianapolis Colts, throwing 333 yards on 31 for 45 passing. He won his first and only MVP nod against the Bears for Super Bowl XLI, his first appearance.
Peyton’s bowl stats could never meet the expectations set by the numerous regular season accolades that he’s accomplished, which removes some of the shine from his performance. He still managed to throw more than a thousand yards in Super Bowl games, winning half of his four appearances, meriting respect as one of the best playoff QBs.
4 John Elway
John Elway was the first quarterback in NFL history to record a pass reception, but that’s not why he’s number four on this list of all-time greats. He lead the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances during his career. His first three appearances were a disaster, ending in routs in which Elway didn’t have a chance to begin to make a difference. After losing 55-10 to the San Francisco 49ers in 1990, Elway and the Broncos needed to wait another eight years for a trip to the big game.
Denver was the underdog by 11 points against the Packers in 1998, and Elway probably wouldn’t have won his first ring if Terrell Davis didn’t pull off one of the greatest performances by a running back during Super Bowl XXXII. When Denver faced Atlanta the next year, Elway and the Broncos were 7.5-point favorites. He saved his best Super Bowl performance for last, throwing 18 receptions on 29 attempts for 336 yards, resulting in a single TD and one interception. He retired as the Super Bowl MVP and champion, throwing 1,128 yards in Super Bowl games.
Part of Elway’s legend revolves around the fact that he never gave up on winning his rings, even during the bleakest days with the Broncos. He created his legacy during the last two years of his career, finishing off his career by riding off into a Super Bowl sunset.
3 Tom Brady
As the most controversial quarterback in the current era of the NFL, Tom Brady has earned the type of sports celebrity status reserved for the elite few. Some NFL observers dislike the fact that he plays on Bill Belichick teams, which are known to bend and break the rules as much as possible. Others question whether or not coach Belichick is the real source of Brady’s success, while others credit Patriots offensive lines, receivers or tight ends for Brady’s legendary career in the NFL.
Regardless of your opinion of Tom Brady, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in Super Bowl history. Prior to Super Bowl LI, Brady made six appearances in the championship game. His two Super Bowl losses against the New York Giants are considered huge upsets, especially when the New England Patriots were 12-point favorites during their near-perfect 2007-08 season.
Brady’s accuracy and calm under pressure remain undeniable strengths that he’s proven over the years, completing 164 of 247 passes over six games for a 95.3 rating, gaining 1,605 yards in the air while producing 13 touchdowns on 4 interceptions. So far, his career highlights include three Super Bowl MVPs, tying him with Joe Montana. During his final years of NFL duty, Brady hopes to become the first to win four bowl MVPs, which would likely be enough to lift him to the number one spot.
2 Terry Bradshaw
Younger NFL fans may be familiar with Terry’s friendly public persona, which includes a post-NFL acting and singing career, but on the field, he was one of the NFL’s fiercest and canniest competitors, calling the plays as QB. He saved his best quarterback performances for the Super Bowl, earning a 112.7 rating during his career. He was the most dominant quarterbacks during the middle ages of the Super Bowl era, winning four rings and earning two MVP nods for his role in Super Bowl XIII and XIV.
Similar to Montana and the 49ers, Bradshaw’s performances were absolutely vital to the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout their most successful era. In Super Bowl XII, the Steelers needed all four TDs to survive the onslaught by Roger Staubach and the Dallas Cowboys. Lynn Swann’s MVP nod during Super Bowl X, one of the most entertaining bowls in history, wouldn’t have happened without Bradshaw’s cannon.
During his four Super Bowl wins, Bradshaw threw 49 completions on 84 attempts, earning 932 yards and nine touchdowns. Despite throwing three interceptions in Super Bowl XIV, he was still named the MVP because of his role in pummeling the Los Angeles Rams.
1 Joe Montana
Super Bowl highlight intro reels are incomplete without a slow-mo shot of Montana to Taylor, which symbolizes the most iconic Super Bowl winning drive in the history of the NFL. He was unbeatable in Super Bowls during his career with the San Francisco 49ers, bringing four championships to northern California, much to the chagrin of Los Angeles sports fans.
He was named Super Bowl MVP three times, becoming the first player to achieve this feat. Jerry Rice beat him out for the fourth nod when he caught 11 passes for 215 yards during Super Bowl XXIII, keeping San Francisco close enough for Montana’s famous comeback.
Over his four Super Bowl wins, Montana completed 83 of 122 passes, resulting in 1,142 yards and 11 touchdowns. He holds the record for most passes without an interception, avoiding an INT in all four Super Bowl appearances. As a result, he holds the record for best Super Bowl rating for a QB with a score of 127.8.
Tom Brady may have the same number of wins and more appearances, but nobody touches Joe’s invincible record, impeccable stats and dramatic impact on the Super Bowl. Brady still has a shot at surpassing Joe, although his window of opportunity will close over the next few years.